If there’s one dish that’s become synonymous with Nigerian cuisine, it’s Jollof Rice, a dish that elevates simple long grain rice into a complex, full-flavored out-of-body rice experience.
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The Origins of Jollof Rice
While Nigerians lay claim to it, it’s believed the dish was actually created by the Senegalese, with nearly all West African cultures having their own versions.
The name probably (though not definitely) comes from the historic Jolof Empire which ruled in the area that is now Senegal and The Gambia in the middle ages. However, the dish itself is believed to have been created by Penda Mbaye in Senegal in the 19th century.
From there, the rice dish became popular, with traders taking the dish home with them, and then putting their own spins on the dish as time went on.
While none is considered the official version, there’s at least one Jollof Rice recipe that’s considered a sin. So stay away from Jamie Oliver’s unless you want to offend the entire western portion of the continent!
We have added our own twist to traditional Jollof rice by adding garlic, celery, and green beans, but feel free to leave those out if you want to stay as close to traditional Nigerian Jollof Rice as possible. We like the extra vegetables both for the extra vitamins and the added texture!
Celebrate World Jollof Day!
Starting in 2015, August 22nd has been celebrated around the world as World Jollof Day. So make sure to make a batch this year to mark this special occasion!
So What is Jollof Rice?
Jollof Rice is made with long-grained rice (typically parboiled but we have a few other options listed below). A base of tomatoes, onions, and peppers gives it its delicious flavors, enhanced with a special Jollof spice blend.
You can serve it spicy (which is more traditional), but if you are sensitive to spice you can tone it down to mild.
You can add meat or fish, fried plantains, extra veggies, etc. to enhance the dish. Different parts of West Africa use different additions. We’ve kept ours straightforward except with the extra veggies mentioned above.
Perfect for Carnivores, Vegetarians, and Vegans!
Versatile and packed with veggies, our recipe calls for chicken stock, but an easy substitution for a vegetable stock will make this dish fabulously vegan.
What You’ll Need to Make Jollof Rice
Here’s everything you need to make Nigerian Jollof Rice at home:
Basic Equipment List
You don’t need fancy equipment to make Jollof Rice at home! You’ll want a large pot with a lid because the delicious flavors come from letting the vegetables and spices simmer together on the stovetop before adding the rice.
For the tomatoes, we used a typical boxed grater.
Simple Ingredients List
1 large white onion
1 bell pepper (we prefer yellow but red is more traditional and green will do in a pinch. A Scotch Bonnet pepper is more traditional (and spicier). We don’t have them available here in our local stores. If you use a Scotch Bonnet, check its spice level. You may want to add less chili powder to your seasoning if it’s spicy).
1 cup frozen or canned green beans (drain if using canned)
1 celery stick
2 cloves of garlic
2.5 cups of chicken stock (can substitute chicken bouillon cube and two cups of water. To make Vegetarian/Vegan substitute vegetable stock or a vegetable bouillon cube and two cups of water. While you would traditionally use two bouillon cubes for that much liquid, that’s a LOT of salt, so start with one and add more if needed).
2 cups dry long-grain rice. (We personally prefer jasmine or basmati rice, but parboiled rice is more traditional. All three ways are delicious).
1.5 tbsp. of tomato paste (this is for color, so you can skip it if you don’t keep tomato paste on-hand).
.25 cups of vegetable oil (palm oil is more traditional but we’re staying away from palm oil for environmental reasons).
2 bay leaves
2 tsp sugar
1.5 tsp paprika
1.5 tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder (This makes it just spicy enough in my opinion, but you may want to subtract half a teaspoon if you’re very spice-sensitive. You can add more after the rice is done if you want more heat).
.5 tsp black pepper
.25 tsp thyme
You Can Make Jollof Spice Ahead of Time
If you want to make Jollof spice ahead of time (or use a store-bought version), then don’t include the spices when you cook. Use the Jollof seasoning instead.
What to Eat with Nigerian Jollof Rice? Our Serving Suggestions
For this version, Valentine whipped up a pumpkin puree that balanced the spiciness. He also makes a yam puree that does the same trick. (Recipes for both coming soon)!
Sometimes we make this version on its own, but sometimes we serve it with chicken or fish. Topping with fried plantains is traditional in parts of West Africa (though not Nigeria and they’re not that easy to come by everywhere).
You could also serve it with hard-boiled eggs or fried tofu.
- 2 large tomatoes, grated
- 1 Large White Onion, diced
- 1 Bell Pepper, diced
- 1 cup frozen or canned green beans
- 1 celery stick, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2.5 cups of chicken stock (see above for substitutions)
- 2 cups dry long-grain rice
- 1.5 tbsp. of tomato paste (optional)
- .25 cups of vegetable oil
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 2 tsp Sugar
- 1.5 tsp Paprika
- 1.5 tsp Curry Powder
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Chilli Powder
- .5 tsp Black Pepper
- .25 tsp Thyme
- In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil on high heat.
- Mix in onions, peppers, garlic, and celery. Reduce heat to medium. Stir occasionally. If you see all the oil soaked up, you can add a bit more.
- After about five minutes, check to see if the vegetables are soft. Add the grated tomatoes, tomato paste, spices, and chicken stock (or your preferred stock subsitute). Stir together. Turn heat up to high and bring to a boil.
- Once the pot is boiling, add the rice and green beans. Cover and bring back to boiling.
- Once the pot is boiling again, reduce heat to medium. Leave for ten minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing sticks or burns. If the rice is sticking, add more water or stock.
- Switch off heat and let it sit for ten minutes before serving.
1. I've noted several substitution options in the Simple Ingredients List towards the top of the article. Not every ingredient is available world-wide, and you may also want to make substitutions to make the dish more traditionally or to make it vegetarian or vegan.
2. This is a dish that will get more complex in flavor over time, so feel free to make a few hours ahead.
Serving Size:1/2 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 272 Total Fat: 7.6g Saturated Fat: 1.5g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 544mg Carbohydrates: 44.8g Fiber: 2.6g Sugar: 4.2g Protein: 4.6g
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